It is hard to believe the kind of career Steven Stamkos has had so far. After serving as a thoroughly underwhelming rookie in the 2008-2009 season, he exploded in 2009-2010 to win the Rocket Richard with 51 goals. Those who wrote him off as a bust the previous year thought it had to be a fluke, and the hockey world waited to see which Stamkos would show up this year.
They go their answer pretty early in the season, when Stamkos jumped out to the goal scoring lead and remained at or near the top of that list ever since. He was an early candidate for the Hart this season because of the way his offense carried the Lightning to unexpected success. After a year of streaks and slumps, is Stamkos even still in the discussion? Should he be?
The answer to that first question: probably not. He is without a doubt one of the best offensive players in the league, but the Hart is given to the player deemed to be the most valuable to his or her team, not the best player. There are several other players who have been key to their teams’ success this year, including Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin, and Henrik Lundqvist.
Others have stepped up for their teams while Stamkos’ production has tapered off. Anaheim would likely not be in a playoff position if not for Perry, and the Canucks offense is almost entirely based on the Sedin twins. With Daniel being the better Sedin this year, it is likely he’ll be the Swede getting the nod this year.
Now on to the second question: should Stamkos still be in the conversation for the Hart Trophy? In all honesty, no. And the reason is one that will make Lightning fans happy for years to come.
As mentioned above, the Hart goes to the player most valuable to their team. Stamkos is second in the league in goals (behind Perry) with 44 and 5th in the league in points with 89. But here’s the catch: he’s only second on the Bolts this season, and will finish the season there. Linemate Martin St. Louis is third in the league in points with 95, and he leads Tampa as well.
In addition to St. Louis’ success, more low-key players have really picked up the slack when the stars weren’t producing. Players like Teddy Purcell and Nate Thompson have thrived when given the opportunity. Also, Dwayne Roloson was brought in mid-season and has played extremely well. He has won at least a few games for this team, and without him it is very possible they aren’t in 5th right now.
With all those other players playing larger roles, Stamkos isn’t more valuable to the Lightning than Perry is to the Ducks or Lundqvist is to the Rangers. It is the same reason Alex Ovechkin likely won’t win another Hart for a few years, and why he didn’t take it home last year. It means the rest of the team is playing well, and that is a very good thing this time of year.